Marine and Coastal Impacts of Ocean Desalination in California


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In light of California’s ongoing drought and growing water needs, the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, through the Center for Ocean Solutions and program on Water in the West, collaborated with The Nature Conservancy and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to facilitate an Uncommon Dialogue on the challenges and opportunities that desalination presents for coastal communities in California and beyond.  The workshop brought together a small but diverse group of cross-sector experts and stakeholders for an open discussion on best available science, technology, and policy related to ocean desalination projects. 

California’s current four-year drought has rekindled interest in ocean desalination as a new and reliable water supply option. Decisions about desalination facilities, however, remain contentious.  Concerns about desalination often focus on cost, energy consumption, and impacts on the marine environment.  In the context of drought and a warming climate, it is critical that California has a clear understanding of all of these impacts and how to manage them.  Our Uncommon Dialogue discussed the state of understanding and identified key issues for further work for both science and policy with respect to desalination impacts on marine ecosystems and coastal communities. On May 23, 2016, we released a report, Marine and Coastal Impacts of Ocean Desalination in Californiasummarizing findings and recommendations from the event.  Read additional details in coverage from the Center for Ocean Solutions: "Desalination and California’s water future: Experts meet to discuss knowledge gaps and ways forward."